Taking a cue from
the little engine that could is crucial in child development, April 27, 2008, 2D.
I think I
can.I think I can!Those were the words of the undersized train
engine as she pulled the train of dolls and toys up the hill in the popular childrens
book, The Little Engine That Could, by Watty
Piper.Pipers book is an updated
version of a story that originated in the early twentieth century.It teaches children about optimism and the power
of positive thinking and the sense of accomplishment that comes from taking on and
succeeding at big goals.
Teaching people at
early ages that success comes from hard work, persistence, and personal sacrifice can have
important influences on society in years to come.According
to Professor Harold Jones, the author of Personal
Character and National Destiny, stories like The
Little Engine That Could help develop personal values that affect how people work and
their goals and aspirations.Children who
learn that hard work and accomplishment are important and desirable personal
characteristics begin to see events in life as opportunities to accomplish exceptional
Jones argued that
the stories we teach to our children help set the course of the nation in years to come.Children who value exceptional achievement turn
into adults who value exceptional achievement.When
high-achievement people control the organizations and institutions of society, they
influence how a society functions and the things that it values and aspires to accomplish.A nation full of high-achievers functions
differently than one without people programmed for exceptional performance.Jones suggested that the stories, lessons, and
cultural examples that we hold up to our children early in their lives helps instill in
them a sense of achievement, success, and work ethic.
Jones based much of
his work on concepts of Learned Needs Theory by David McClelland.Needs explain why people want to do the things
they do and have been used to describe human motivationMaslows hierarchy is
probably the most well known of these theories.Learned
needs are acquired early in life through family experiences.Once acquired, they serve to guide the behaviors
of individuals throughout their lives.The
three learned needs identified by McClelland are achievement, power, and affiliation.A person with a high need for achievement will
view and seek out events in life as opportunities to accomplish unusual and exceptional
things.A person with a high need for power
will search for opportunities to be in control and one with a high need for affiliation
will look for ways to include and be included by others in events.
workplace is made up of people who grew up at different times and were exposed to
different stories as they were raised.For
some, hard work and achievement is programmed into them.For others, strong needs for power or affiliation drive their behavior.Others grew up with negative and painful stories.Managers should understand the needs and
motivations of their workers and seek ways to develop cultures of exceptional performance
with people of different backgrounds and types of personal motivation.
means legal, ethical choices, April 20, 2008, 2E.
process involves several distinct stages.The
first step is to define the problem.Alternative
solutions to a problem are then generated before one is chosen as the solution to
implement.After a solution is implemented,
it should later be evaluated and altered if necessary.Not all problems are the same and not all alternatives are acceptable.
involves selecting an alternative to implement from among a host of possible alternatives.Many times, the alternatives that decision-makers
select and implement are those with which they are familiar or those that are readily
available.For example, each day when I get
in my car to return home from work, I choose an alternative that is very familiar and easy
for me to implement.However, on any given
day I could choose a different alternative from among an almost unlimited number of other
effective solutions.I could bum a ride from
one of my friends or acquaintances from work, call a taxi, ride a bus, walk, ride a bike
or skateboard, or choose any combination of those alternatives.
In addition to
those alternatives, there are also a host of illegal alternatives that I could choose
from.I could steal or hijack a vehicle,
sneak onto public transportation, or ride in a taxi and stiff the driver of the fare.However, I never consider those alternatives as
legitimate possibilities because they are not legal.Selecting and implementing one of those could result in criminal
prosecution, fines, incarceration, and other unpleasant consequences.Illegal alternatives are screened out as
unacceptable before ever being evaluated as possible solutions.
are legal, but are also never considered as possible solutions.For example, I could con a motorist into driving
me home under the guise of a personal or family emergency.I could play on the sympathy of a coworker by faking an injury for a ride or
to borrow a vehicle.I could also concoct a
hard-luck story to solicit money from friends or strangers for bus or cab fares.These alternatives never come up for consideration
in my mind because they violate my sense of ethics and morality.Violating my ethical principles would make me feel
guilty and ashamed of my actions and could cost me the trust of those who helped meif
they ever learned that I took advantage of them.Only
the alternatives that are legal and ethical become possible solutions to a problem.
As more and more
organizations embrace the notions of empowerment and shared decision-making, it is
becoming increasingly important that workers know how to make decisions.They must understand how to define problems and
develop alternative solutions that are both legal and ethical.To do that, workers need to understand the legal
environments in which their organizations operate and the ethical guidelines that drive
their operations.Organizational leaders must
continually train and educate their workers on these issues and clearly espouse their
expectations for ethical and legal behavior.Failure
to do so can be costly.
Decisions about making decisions,
April 13, 2008, 2D.
When beginning a
home repair project, it is helpful to have all necessary tools close at hand.It is often advisable to even have extra tools
within reach should the project be more complicated than originally thought.The larger the variety of tools in a handymans
toolbox, the more likely he will be to fix the problems that he encounters.
In a way, a manager
is like an organizational handyman.Managers
identify and solve many types of problems (e.g., personnel, planning, scheduling,
budgeting, technology, operations, facilities, policies, resources, etc.) with the best
interests of their organizations in mind.Some
problems are straightforward and predictable and others are more complicated.A good manager, like a good handyman, is able to
quickly determine the types of tools that he needs to fix the problems that he encounters.
Sometimes the tools
that are needed to solve organizational problems are co-workers and the knowledge,
insight, and creativity that they possess.People
use the knowledge that they gain from past experiences to define and remedy the problems
that they encounter.Knowledge can be
gained from direct personal experiences or from the experiences of others.Groups are able to outperform individuals on
mental tasks in large part because of the diversity of experiences that members bring to
their groups.When the experiences of group
members are used to solve problems instead of just those of a single manager, better
solutions usually arise.The benefits of
group problem solving, however, come with costsprimarily, the time spent by group
members away from their normal work responsibilities.
Not all of the
decisions that managers make need to be solved with the help of coworkers.Managers can make some decisions with little or no
input from workers.Effective managers know
when to solicit input from others and when to solve problems by themselves.
Decision Model, developed by Victor Vroom and his associates, gives explanation to the
appropriate level of worker involvement in the decision-making process.Decision acceptance and decision quality drive the
model.When it is important that workers buy
into and accept the decision, they should be included in the decision-making process.Likewise, when it is important that exceptional
and high-quality solutions be developed, more people should be included in the process.Time should also be considered when selecting the
appropriate degree of worker involvementas time available to make decisions
decreases, more autocratic decision styles are appropriate.
The model also
describes five decision-making styles that range on a continuum from autocratic
to group. The autocratic style is one where managers make decisions
independently and autonomously.The middle
dimensions involve the manager collecting relevant information from others, consulting
with individual coworkers, and consulting with groups of workers before making decisions.Under the group style, managers allow
their workers to solve problems.The
appropriate decision-making style is dictated by characteristics of the situationacceptance,
quality, and time.Like tools, different
decision-making styles are appropriate for different types of problems and skilled
managers know when and how to use each of them.
like were on a road to nowhere, April 6, 2008, 2D.
As a teenager
during the early days of the music video revolution, I remember trying to watch music
videos whenever I could get the chance.One
of my favorite videos was Road to Nowhere by the Talking Heads.Throughout the song, the lead singer is seen
steadily running in place in a small, superimposed rectangle in the lower right corner of
the screen while images of all types pass by in the background.The lyrics tell about being on a road to
nowherethat line is repeated many times during the song.Watching the singer continually running during the
video is mesmerizing and somewhat depressing.What
a sad fate it would be to perpetually run nowhere.
organizations also seem to run on the road to nowhere.Those without a clear purpose and goals, those without a vital and relevant
mission, and those without people who aspire to accomplish new and interesting things are
often heading nowhere.As with a ship that is
pushed along aimlessly by the tide and wind, a directionless organization might find that
it will eventually move away from where it started.Sometimes
an aimless movement to nowhere in particular can result in good things for the
organization.However, when the tide and wind
is used in conjunction with a desired destination, navigation, course corrections, and an
able crew, ships can be quickly and safely maneuvered to their destinations.Effective captains guide effective shipsthey
prepare their ships for the journey, they constantly monitor environmental conditions,
they plan and follow navigable routes, and they assemble and work with able crews.
organizations need effective leadership to guide them somewhere.Leadership is about vision, direction, and
movement.Effective leaders provide followers
with destinations to which they aspire and they work with their followers to reach them.When the journey to the destination seems
perilous, leaders provide their followers with confidence and assurance.Effective leaders prepare their organizations for
the journey and they constantly scan the environment for threats that might slow down or
impede their journey and for opportunities that could move them along faster.They chart courses of movement appropriate for the
abilities and limits of their organizations and they make periodic adjustments to their
planned routes.Effective leaders also build
effective work teams.They inspire team
members to work toward desirable destinations and they work with followers to reach their
your organization is one that aspires to maintaining the status quo or simply
going with the flow, your organization may be on the road to nowhereand
that is not typically a place that organizations seek to go. To go somewhere in a purposeful and
coordinated manner, organizations need leaders and leadership throughout their
ranksfrom executive-level positions all the way down to first-level positions.When destinations are reached, leaders guide their
organizations to new and better destinations.Vision,
goals, direction, teamwork, and continuous change are the ingredients of leadership and
the keys to keeping organizations off of the road to nowhere.
Are you a follower?
March 30, 2008, 2D
Have you even taken
a good hard look at the people you work with?Are
some of them able to identify problems and take the necessary steps to solve those
problems with little help or direction?Are
some of them eager to help and do whatever they are told to do, but cannot seem to think
for themselves?Do some of them seem to know
and have solutions to all of the problems within the organization, but do nothing to help
solve them?Are there others who seem
incapable of independent thought and action and need prodding and guidance for everything
they do?And are there others who seem to do
and speak up just enough to stay out of the spotlights of attention and responsibility?
Robert Kelley, in
his scheme of follower behaviors, identified two independent dimensions on which followers
differ.One dimension has to do with follower
activity and behavior and the other deals with thought and problem identification.Kelleys behavior dimension ranges from
active to passive.The thought dimension
ranges from independent and critical to dependent and uncritical.Kelley combined those two dimensions to identify
five types of followers.
Followers who are
passive in their actions and uncritical in their thinking are called Sheep.Sheep lack the abilities to independently identify
problems or the courses of action needed to solve those problems, and they need prodding
and pushing to get them to perform.Yes
People are dependent in their thinking, but are active and willing to do whatever
they are asked to do.People who see all of
the problems within an organization and have solutions for them, but are unwilling to act
until prodded are known as Alienated Followers.Alienated Followers are the ones who would rather sit around and complain
about the ways things work than actually doing anything about the problems themselves.Survivors are those who exist where
the two dimensions intersect; they are active and independent enough in their thinking to
stay out of trouble, but also just passive and dependent enough to not be noticed or given
extra responsibilities.Kelley labeled people
who are active and independent in their thinking as Effective Followers.Effective Followers are those who can see and
figure out solutions to problems and have the energy and activity to solve them.They are self-active and independent and work for
the common good and purpose of their organizations.
organizations are made up of active and independent-thinking followers.Training and development techniques and a sincere
effort on the part of management to elicit employee involvement might be used to turn Yes
People into Effective Followers.Strong
leadership can also create cultures of openness, shared decision-making, and employee
involvement to transform Alienated Followers into Effective Followers.Under effective leadership, Survivors might also
be encouraged to step up and take ownership of problems and become more active.Organizational policies, reward schemes, and
high-involvement cultures must be created to promote active behavior and independent and
critical thinking in organizational members.
eBayers, beware the
tempting escalation of commitment trap, March 23, 2008, 2C.
Experienced eBay buyers respect and
understand the bidding process.Bidders on
eBay are instructed to enter the highest amount that they are willing to pay for an item
when placing their bids.After deciding upon
and entering that amount, the most rational thing for a bidder to do is to wait for the
auction to end before checking to learn the outcome of the offer.One of the worst things to do is continually check
on the status of the status of the auction and get into a bidding war with other bidders.
It is very tempting
to raise a maximum bid several dollars when you find out that someone else has outbid your
maximum offer.If you were originally
dedicated to spending no more than $40 on an item, a new maximum bid of $42 is only two
dollars more.And when competing bidders
raise the price to $44, it only seems logical to invest three more dollars and push the
price to $45.By the time the auction ends, a
bidder who was originally willing to invest no more than $40 may find that he has spent
Commitment is the name given to the process of making decisions in the pursuit of a course
of action that seem rational based on previous actions, but in reality are quite
irrational.Once invested in a course of
action, it many times seems wiser to throw more investment into the action than cutting
losses and moving on to something more profitable.The
bidder who has surpassed her original and well-reasoned maximum bid amount many times
rationalizes making higher bids in terms of what will be lost if she does not increase her
bid and reasons that another slightly higher bid is justified because the auction can be
won with just a few dollars more.
susceptible to the pitfalls of escalation of commitment.They sometimes throw money and resources after unprofitable ventures because
they have irrational senses of gain and loss.They
will sometimes invest more into a failing course of action in the pursuit of success than
if they had taken an earlier loss and moved on to another venture.Pouring more money into promoting an unprofitable
product line rather than dumping it, retaining unproductive employees instead of letting
them go, repairing and maintaining defective equipment rather than scrapping it and buying
new equipment, spending more time and effort developing strategies to make unproductive
activities profitable rather than starting over with new options, and sinking additional
money into over-budget building projects are all forms of escalation of commitment.
makers need to look at what the option will yield in the future rather than looking at
what has been invested in the action in the past.Sometimes
the best course of action is to stop, turn, and head in a new direction.If organizational decision makers are so dedicated
to success at any cost, they may find that success ultimately costs them everything.
Servant leaders differ in approach,
March 16, 2008, 2D.
is a popular term in management and organizational circles these days.Churches, schools, volunteer organizations, and
businesses of all types have jumped on the servant leadership bandwagon, but how many
actually understand the concept and appreciate how drastically different it is from
traditional models of management?
coined the term Servant Leader to describe a leadership style characterized by
serving and meeting the needs of people.He
argued that the conscious desire to serve others eventually creates a desire to lead.Individuals who seek to be servants first and then
rise to positions of leadership in organizations tend to interact with others and guide
organizations differently than people who aspire to be leaders first.Servants as leaders seek to meet the highest
priority needs and interests of their people.Servant
leaders desire for their people to grow and to become healthier, wiser, freer,
more autonomous, and more likely themselves to become servants.
management thinking suggested that workers follow the commands and dictates of their
superiors.Superiors made decisions and
retained control over all the dimensions of the work and organization.Workers acted as the hands and feet of management,
carrying out the will of the decision-making brain.In
traditional management, organizations were viewed as machines and workers were viewed as
machine parts.When workers broke down or
gave up, management would replace them with other workers who would comply with orders and
efficiently perform their work.Power and
control resided with management; workers merely did what they were told to do.
Rather than tell,
servant leaders ask.Servant leaders ask
people about their needs and desires and ask for worker input on decisions affecting the
organization.Servant leaders treat their
followers as self-active, responsible, and intelligent people rather than mindless machine
parts.By attending to worker needs, servant
leaders free their followers from obstacles and barriers to performance and allow them to
figure out and suggest ways to improve their work.They
allow workers to take ownership in the workplace and the decisions affecting the
organization.In the process, workers develop
feelings that they are appreciated, respected, and trusted.By empowering workers and giving away authority,
servant leaders actually gain more power from their followers.
Being a servant
leader does not mean being a doormat to workers.Effective
parents serve their children while guiding them in positive directions and steering them
away from harmful or unhealthy decisions.Effective
parents allow children to grow and explore new things, but are also willing and able to
give corrective feedback when necessary.The
goal of any parent-child relationship is for the child to meet or exceed the abilities and
accomplishments of the parent.A servant
leaders relationship with followers is no different.
ideas that managers should serve and develop workers into employees who self-actively
manage and make decisions for an organization and that superiors are servants of the
followers is backwards from traditional management thinking.The success of servant leaders comes from serving
the needs of others.
needs determine our course in life, March 9, 2008, 3D.
If you were given
the task of getting a tennis ball into a box, how would you do it?Would you stand next to the box and then extend
your arm and drop the ball directly into the box?Or
might you position yourself a distance away from the box and toss the ball into it?Assuming that you succeeded in your first attempt,
how would you position yourself for a second attempt?Would you do it the exact same way or would you make it more challenging for
yourself and move further away from the box?
and his well-known research on learned needs gives explanation for the distances that
people choose when attempting such a task.People
with a high need for achievement position themselves at distances that are challenging,
yet also have a fairly high probably of success.People
with a high need for achievement are driven to accomplish exceptional and unusual things.Simply dropping the ball into the box would not
provide them with a sense of accomplishment or achievement.Standing too far away brings in elements of luck rather than skill.
research also identified two other learned needs: the need for power and the need for
affiliation.People with a strong need for
power have a built-in need to be in control of others and situations.McClelland described power needs as being
personalized or socialized.A personalized
power need is characterized by wanting power and control for personal reasonsfor the
gratification that comes from having others do what you want them to do.A socialized power need is characterized by
wanting power to use for the good of others.A
person with a high need for affiliation is someone who actively seeks out the company of
others.They have a strong desire to include
others in events and to be included by others.
Learned needs, as
described McClelland, come from experiences in early life.The stories that children hear and learn, the lessons that they gain from
parents and influential others, and the messages that they receive from their environments
all help shape and determine what is regarded as important and worthwhile.Eventually, those lessons influence how people
approach life, interpret events, and behave.People
who value achievement as an important quality will eventually come to view opportunities
in life as ways to accomplish unusual and exceptional things.Likewise, those with strong needs for power and
affiliation will see and interpret life events as opportunities to meet those needs.The learned needs that people develop in life
serve as lenses by which they see and approach the world.
social entities that exist to accomplish goals and objectives.Power and influence are necessary to bring about
compliance and performance from others.A
combination of people who are high in needs for achievement, power (preferably socialized
power), and affiliation is needed for well-coordinated, functional, and vibrant
organizations.Organizations of all types
need people who achieve, influence, and work well with others.
planning improvement, remember geometry, March 2, 2008, 3D.
theorem states that for a right triangle, the square of the length of the hypotenuse is
equal to the sum of the squares of the other two lengths.For a triangle with two sides that measure three and four units, the
hypotenuse will equal five units.The square
of three (nine) plus the square of four (16) equals the square of five (25).The hypotenuse will always be shorter than the sum
of the lengths of the other two sides.
From the work of W.
Edwards Deming came the ideas of Total Quality Management (TQM).TQM is a management philosophy and method used in
production settings and is concerned with producing high-quality products.Many of Demings ideas about creating quality
and high-performance organizations have been extended and applied to areas beyond
production.One of the central ideas of his
methodology is the notion of continuous improvement.
improvement is concerned with on-going and gradual changes in the ways of production and
work.Making small and incremental changes
over time can result in big changes in the long run.When change is continuous and gradual over time, less effort is needed at
any point in time than what would be required for a radical and drastic change over a
short time period.And at any point in time,
an organization that is continually improving and moving up is performing
better than one that continues in an original course of action and changes only
periodically and drastically.
Anyone who has
pulled a washing machine up the ramp of a moving truck on a dolly, as opposed to
physically picking it up and lifting it into the back of a truck, can appreciate the help
that a ramp provides.Each step up a ramp
raises the load gradually to the level of the truck.Wheeling a heavy load on the ground from the end of the ramp to the back of
a truck and then lifting it into the truck requires more distance moved and much more
exertion on the lift.
A trip up the
hypotenuse of a triangle is shorter than a trip down one side, stopping and turning 90
degrees at the right angle, and then moving up the other side.With all else held equal, the distance, time, and
energy needed to move at right angles is greater than moving on the hypotenuse.
notion of continuous improvement is equivalent to gradually moving up the hypotenuse of a
triangle; like moving up a ramp.Discontinuous
change, or radical change, is analogous to proceeding down one side of a triangle without
any change, stopping and changing directions at the right angle, and then restarting and
continuing in a new direction.And as with a
heavy load that has to be lifted into a truck, the change and movement from the right
angle to the end of the second side can be very difficult for those involved in the
When planning for
organizational change, remember your geometry!
If everyone was
incredible , February 24, 2008, 2D. (an expanded version of this article to appear in The Baptist
I have heard it
said that good preachers can find sermons in almost anything they encounter.I think that it is also possible to find lessons
in management and leadership in many things as well.
The Incredibles, a movie made for kids and adults,
provides one such example.The movie tells
the story of a family of superheroes who become locked into battle with a nemesis who
makes himself powerful by inventing machines and weapons.Buddy, the nemesis, reveals that his ultimate plan is to sell his inventions
so that everyone can be superheroes.And
when everyones super, Buddy cautions, no one will be.
I recently received
a recruiting brochure in the mail from a nearby, peer university.The brochure showed pictures of attractive and
happy-looking college students smiling and having fun at scenic campus locations and
events.It had images of professors and
students interacting in classroom settings, pictures from athletic events, and images of
students engaging in worship and Bible study.The
text described the institution as being warm, caring, and academically challenging.Prospective students were encouraged to choose
this school because of its small class sizes, interaction with caring and committed
faculty members who take personal interest in their students, relevant and interesting
academic programs, and its faith-based education.The
brochure touted the things that made the institution super.
The institution did
not come across as super or extraordinary.I
felt like I had seen the brochure countless times before from a countless number of
schoolsprospective students who receive the brochures probably feel the same way.The brochure described important, relevant, and
interesting characteristics of the institution, but they were not super.The school came across as very common.In fact, there are three competitors in Abilene
that could claim those same distinguishing characteristics.
To be super,
institutions and their offerings have to be different from othersthey need to be
unique.The concept of choosing one or more
important consumer dimensions to compete with others for consumers is known as the unique
selling proposition (USP).The USP is the
thing or angle that firms use to differentiate themselves from their
competitors in the minds of consumers.The
things that make the institution unique must be things that consumers find relevant and
desirable.A good USP is one that competitors
cannot imitate or replicate and when exploited over the long run can create monopoly-like
advantages for organizations and become forms of sustainable competitive advantage.
To attract the
attention and interest of prospective consumers, organizations must develop and offer
unique features, products, services, programs, and experiences that make themselves
different from their competitors.To be
unique, organizations, their offerings, and the messages that they broadcast into the
marketplace must be unlike others.Simply
stating important and worthwhile characteristics does not make an institution unique in
the minds of consumers, especially when their competitors tout the same things.Having the same super characteristics as everyone
else makes no one super.Might there be a
sermon in that?
Have confidence in confidence, February
17, 2008, 2D.
need the map, I know exactly where I am going.Those were the words that rang though my head as I left my house on the way
to a conference in Dallas.I had been to the
conference location four times before and was certain of my route.It was not until I actually saw the huge pile of
dirt in the middle of the road about a mile from my destination that I realized my planned
route to the conference had hit a dead end.After
getting back on I-20, taking another exit from the highway, and driving around in
rush-hour traffic for more than an hour, I finally arrived at the conferenceonly ten
My adventures in
driving without direction in Dallas reminded me of my summer travel adventures in Europe.I spent 17 days traveling with my family this
past summer driving through Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy, and
Slovenia.On that trip, we took wrong roads,
turned around, drove on pedestrian pathways, missed exits, drove through ice and snow,
read signs incorrectly (in German, Italian, and Slovenian), and encountered many one-way
streets that we had expected to be two-way.Throughout
our travels, however, we eventually reached every location to which we were heading.Sometimes the trips were simple and sometimes they
were quite complicated.Toward the end of our
European driving adventure, we were quite confident that we could overcome almost any
obstacle thrown in our way.
As I drove around
Dallas looking for familiar-sounding roads and scanning my memory for images of the
correct layout of roads and geography, I found myself unusually calm and confident.It occurred to me that if I could survive and
succeed in my European driving mishaps, I could certainly reach my destination in Dallas.
processes at play in my mind were what researcher Albert Bandura described as
self-efficacy.The confidence gained by
succeeding in a task helps a person gain confidence when faced with similar tasks.Success driving in Europe helped me feel more
confident when driving without direction in Dallas.
development programs are built upon the ideas of creating self-efficacy in program
participants.The confidence gained from
succeeding in leadership and teamwork exercises can help build confidence in participants
that will benefit them in real life situations later.While it is quite unlikely that leaders and managers will have to lead
workers through high-ropes elements, creative problem-solving exercises and team-building
tasks, or camp-type team competitions, they will have to lead others through tasks and
situations that require problem solving, effective communication, conflict management,
creativity, and teamwork.Effective
leadership development programs provide participants with opportunities to study and
practice leadership and teamwork in controlled environments that can generalize to other
situations.The skills and competencies
developed must mirror those of the workplace in order to build confidence and
self-efficacy in program participants.That
confidence can help leaders from feeling lost when they confront new and unknown
satisfaction, February 10, 2008, 2D.
We like our house.It has a driveway that is big enough to ride bikes
and play basketball on, a fenced backyard that helps contain our dogs, enough room inside
for the family to spread out, and a location that is convenient to many of the places that
we visit and shop at regularly.There are
things about the house that we would like to have improved, like closet space, another
bedroom, and modern bathrooms, but overall, we are quite satisfied with where we live.
The idea of being
overall satisfied with our house, but less-than-satisfied with some characteristics of the
house is similar to feelings of satisfaction with jobs.It is possible to be satisfied with a job in a global sense and at the same
time be dissatisfied with one or more particular components of the job.A person may perceive the actual work that he
performs to be meaningful and enjoyable, but cares little for the people that he works
with.Likewise, an employee might be very
satisfied with the opportunities for promotion within her organization, but receives far
less pay than she feels is appropriate for her job and abilities.
Job satisfaction is
typically regarded as being related to absenteeism, turnover, and performance to some
degree.The idea that overall job
satisfaction can differ from satisfaction with particular dimensions, or facets, of a job
is well understood among organizational researchers.The Job Descriptive Index (JDI) is a survey instrument that measures five
facets of job satisfaction: pay, promotion, supervision, the work itself, and co-workers.Overall job satisfaction cannot be computed by
simply summing the scores of the facet dimensions because they are independent dimensions.
pay includes attitudes and perceptions about the amount of pay received in relation to
personal expectations and comparisons with others.Perceiving
that opportunities exist for promotion and advancement within an organization leads to
satisfaction with promotion opportunities.The
relationships that workers have with supervisors and co-workers contribute to satisfaction
on those two job dimension facets.When the
jobs performed by workers are perceived as meaningful and important, they tend to
experience higher levels of satisfaction on the work itself dimension.
satisfaction with a focus on facets provides insight into the attitudes, needs, and
motives of workers.Ministers, teachers, and
social workers most likely receive high levels of satisfaction in their jobs from the work
itself.Other people might receive the
greatest levels of satisfaction from their jobs from being around and interacting with
coworkers and supervisors.High pay might
keep some people in their jobs even when they regard their work as less meaningful and
when they receive little satisfaction from other facets of their jobs.
Sometimes it is
desirable to have employees provide overall evaluations of job satisfactionwhere
they account for all pertinent aspects of their jobs in one single response.At other times, managers might need to assess
employee job satisfaction more specifically with an account of the different facets of job
Commitment is a
multiple-layered variable at work, February, 3, 2008, 6D.
As social beings,
humans form bonds and relationships with many types of people and for many different
reasons.Some relationships are based on
family bonds, some are based on love and emotions, and others form for mutual benefit and
safety.Interpersonal relationships can be
long-term or short-term and can be deep or superficial.At different times and stages in life, the strength, reasons behind, and
nature of relationships between people can change.The
choice of whether to remain in an interpersonal relationship is determined in large part
by the degree of commitment to the other person and the relationship.
online dictionary defines commitment as the state or an
instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled. In this definition, commitment is identified as a
obligated and being emotionally impelled are two different reasons
for remaining in an interpersonal relationship.However,
most interpersonal relationships probably involve both of those dimensions.
Humans spend much
of their lives working and living in groups.And
as with interpersonal relationships, there are many different reasons why people join and
remain in groups (e.g., family, love and emotions, mutual benefit and safety, etc.) and
the relationships that members have with their groups can be long- or short-term, can be
deep or superficial, and can change over time.The
concepts of commitment to a group or organization are similar in many ways to commitment
to an interpersonal relationshipincluding the multi-dimensional nature of the
Meyer and Natalie Allen defined organizational commitment as a psychological state
characterizing an employees relationship with the organization and affecting his or
her decision to remain with the organization.They
identified three types of organizational commitment: affective, continuance, and normative
commitment is rooted in a members emotional attachment to an organization.It forms because the individual identifies with
the goals of the organization and willingly assists the organization in achieving those
goals.Continuance commitment is based in the
real and perceived costs and benefits of leaving or remaining with an organization.I am getting paid too much to leave or
Where else will I be able to have the benefits that I have with this company?
are statements that demonstrate continuance commitment.Lost friendships and social interaction are social costs of leaving an
organizationand contribute to continuance commitment.Normative commitment refers to a perceived sense of obligation or loyalty.Feeling that you owe the company
something in return for what it has done for you or sensing that you have moral obligation
to remain with the organization characterize this form of commitment.Affective, continuance, and normative commitments
refer to want to, have to, and ought to orientations
toward organizational membership.
and Allen suggested that all three types of commitment operate on organizational members
simultaneously.An employee can be committed
to an organization in affective, continuance, and normative senses at the same
timeand those levels can change over time.Understanding
these concepts is key to developing deep, long-term, and positive relationships with
Fight stress by
building resiliency, January 28, 2008, 2D.
One of the most
stressful times of my life was suffering through my comprehensive exams and dissertation
in graduate school.I had invested years of
my life and passed up on other productive opportunities to earn a graduate degree.The successful completion of graduate school
required that I successfully complete the comprehensive exam and dissertation.The reasons that these two events were stressful
are because they involved uncertainty and importance.
long-term stress can be harmful to individuals.High
blood pressure, cardio-vascular problems, fatigue, and compromised immune systems are some
physical reactions to continued stress.Feelings
of helplessness and being out of control, anxiety, depression, and worry are psychological
reactions to stress.If not properly managed
and controlled, stress can have detrimental effects on people.
To help cope with
the stress that came from the final two obstacles of my formal higher education, I would
play racquetball several times a week with a group of friends.I also regularly played in softball and basketball
leagues with friends from church.When
engaged in those activities, the nervousness and anxiety of graduate school
disappearedthey were out of my mind.Participating
in activities with groups of friends who were not consumed with the same types of worry
and anxiety that I was experiencing helped keep things in perspective for me.My friends also provided me with encouragement and
support through my trials.
active, keeping my problems in perspective, and having a group of supportive friends
helped me develop resiliency.Resiliency, as
defined in the dictionary, refers to the capability of a strained body to recover
its size and shape after deformation caused especially by stress.Resilient people bend rather than
break while under stress and then recover once it is removed.
There are three
types of resiliencyphysical, psychological, and social.Physical resiliency comes from developing and
maintaining a strong and healthy body.Eating
well, engaging in regular and vigorous exercise, and getting plenty of rest are ways to
enhance your bodys ability to handle and bounce back from stress.Psychological resiliency comes from developing a
hardy personality, accepting a love of challenge, recognizing small wins, and maintaining
a balanced lifestylethat is, allowing time for many types of activities and
interests.Finding mentors, supportive
friends, and others who have been through similar experiences helps develop social
resiliency.A combination of all three types
of resiliency should be nurtured and maintained.
Institute of Stress reports that the estimated cost of stress to U.S. industry, in terms
of accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, workers'
compensation awards, tort and Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) judgments, and
direct medical, legal, and insurance costs, is $300 billion annually.By developing programs to help workers build
resiliency, businesses and organizations can save untold amounts of money on
stress-related expenses and simultaneously develop healthier and more productive
workforces.It may be costly to firms to
create and maintain employee health and wellness programs, but not doing so might be even
equity theory and keeping employees motivated, January 20, 2008, 2D.
As a kid, I was
taught that there were certain questions that you did not ask adultsdoing so was
considered inappropriate and rude.These
included questions about age, weight, and income.
organizations, questions and talk of pay and compensation among coworkers is also taboo.Workers intentionally avoid discussing the subject
with coworkers and managers often try to keep the pay and compensation of organizational
members known only by those involved in payroll-related functions.The reasons for keeping pay and compensation a
secret is probably less about being inappropriate and rude and more about keeping workers
motivated, productive, and feeling that they are being treated fairly and equitably.
Stacey Adams, in
his Equity Theory research from the early 1960s, gave explanation to how and why knowledge
of the outcomes that others receive from their work influences the performance and
motivation of workers.In his classic study,
he designed an experiment where the quality and rates of work on a task were recorded for
subjects in his study.After a baseline
performance was determined for each subject, the researchers planted a coworker, who was
part of the study, into the experiment.The
planted coworker worked along side the subject doing an identical task.After a certain amount of time, the planted
coworker told the subject how much he was being compensated for the task and revealed his
supposed background and qualifications for the job/
learned what the coworkers were being paid and their backgrounds and qualifications, the
researchers studied the effects of that knowledge on subsequent performance of the
subjects--on their quality and rates of production. In the experiments, the
researchers manipulated the information they revealed to the subjects. In some
cases, the planted coworkers reported that they were paid more than the subjects and in
other conditions that they were paid less. Adams also changed the supposed
qualification levels of the planted workers--sometimes subjects were more qualified than
the planted workers and sometimes they were less qualified.
that workers perceive themselves as being over-rewarded, under-rewarded, or
equitably-rewarded in relation to the outputs and inputs of their coworkers.When subjects felt that they were being
compensated fairly with respect to the rewards and qualifications of the coworkers, they
did not alter their performance after knowledge of their coworkers compensation was
revealed.In cases where subjects felt over-
or under-rewarded in relation to their coworkers, their performance changed after they
learned what the coworkers were being paid.Subjects
changed their rates and quality of work to restore perceptions of equity with their
coworkerssometimes the changes would be beneficial to an organization and sometimes
Theory has many implications for managers and organizational policy makers.As a motivation model, it has direct bearing on
policies such as wage and salary structures, compensation and benefits, training and
development, and employee attitudes and morale.Managers should fully investigate and the concepts of Equity
Theoryasking questions about these concepts is expected and required.
analysis the way of the future, January 13, 2008, 2D.
Imagine the advantages of being able to
see into the future and accurately predict things that will happen. Students would
be able to know exactly what to study and learn for assignments and exams, parents would
know how to help their children avoid harmful situations, investors could pick rewarding
opportunities and avoid costly ones, and emergency workers could head off hazardous and
harmful situations before they arise. The ability to accurately see the future could
help people make decisions in the present that lead to things they want in the future.
Organizations and businesses of all types
could also benefit from knowledge of the future. The abilities to forecast demand
and supply, prices and profit margins, raw material and operational costs, and customer
flow and employee staffing needs could all help organizational decision makers choose the
courses of action needed to best benefit their organizations. Unfortunately, the
ability to know the future is not something that human beings possess.
The management science field has
tools and techniques that can be used to solve many types of management and organizational
problemssuch as, inventory management, production and process control, product
mixing and blending, transportation assignment and scheduling, maximization and
minimization, and employee scheduling. There are also forecasting techniques that
decision makers can use to make educated guesses about their futures. Linear
regression is one of the most popular and well known of those techniques.
Regression analysis is grounded in the
concepts of correlation. Correlation is a measure of relationship between variables.
Variables can be positively or negatively related or not related. A positive
relationship means that as one variable increases in value, its associated value does as
well. For example, a higher number of sales calls placed should result in higher
number of sales made. A negative relationship means that as one variable increases,
the other variable decreases. As the number of days missed from work increases for a
worker, the performance for that person should decrease. A zero correlation, or no
correlation, indicates that two variables are not relatedsuch as the number of soft
drinks consumed at work and the number of maintenance calls made for copy machine repairs.
When a relationship exists between two
variables, it is possible to predict one with the other. The stronger the
relationship between the variables, the better the predictive power. For example,
when fuel efficiency of a vehicle is known, it is easy to forecast fuel consumption when
distance is known. When a known relationship is not as strong, such as the effects
of an advertising campaign on the sales of an item, the ability to predict the outcome is
not as certain. Regression analysis measures the relationships between variables and
builds a mathematical model to best describe those relationshipswhich can be used to
predict an outcome variable with one or more predictor variables. With education and
training on regression techniques, which can be run in Microsoft Excel, managers can
forecast the future for their organizations.
to be specific with your goals, January 6, 2008, 2D.
At this time of
year, it is common to hear people talk about setting New Years resolutions.Becoming healthier by eating better, increasing
activity and fitness levels, and losing weight are popular resolutions.As common as it is to set New Years
resolutions, it seems almost as common to hear about people breaking their resolutions.Somehow, the good intentions behind many
peoples resolutions fail to ever materialize into sustained change.
Theory, a popular motivation model, helps give explanation to why people hold to or fail
to meet their resolutions.Research on goal
setting and performance has identified that goals, to be motivating, should be specific,
challenging, accepted, and provide feedback.
I want to
lose 10 pounds by Valentines Day is a much more specific goal than, Over the
next year, I want to get rid of the spare tire around my middle.Goal specificity gives people exact targets and
timelines against which to measure their performance.Accomplishing a series of small, incremental, and short-term goals gives the
goal setter the ability to see movement toward the overall goal.
Goals that are
challenging are more motivating than goals that are too hard or too easy.Setting a fitness goal of being able to run a mile
in four minutes might be unrealistically difficult for many resolution makers and
eventually cause them to give up prematurely in frustration.Setting a fitness goal of being able to run a mile
in 20 minutes is probably too easy for many people and would not drive people to focus,
train, and significantly alter their behaviors to attain that goal.
People do things
that they believe in and find important to do.When
goals are not accepted by the people who are responsible for meeting them, performance is
less likely to occur than when people endorse and accept the responsibility for making
them happen.If people do not accept
ownership and responsibility for meeting their goals, they will be more likely to give up
on them when distractions and difficulties arise.
When people know
how their current actions and levels of performance stack up against expected performance,
they can sustain acceptable performance or make corrective actions to bring unacceptable
performance back into line with expectations.Someone
who has lost only two pounds at the end of January while striving toward a Lose 10
pounds by Valentines Day resolution should realize that corrective actions are
needed.Waiting until Valentines Day to first
step on a scale does not permit the goal setter to make corrective actions or maintain
successful strategies during the performance period.
For resolutions to
become realities, they should be specific, challenging (that is, neither too easy nor too
hard), accepted, and have ways of measuring attained performance against predefined
standards.The things that lead to
successfully attaining New Years resolutions are the same things that contribute to
goal attainment in organizations by individuals and groups.If one of your New Years resolutions is to accomplish greater things
at work, try implementing the principles of Goal-Setting Theory.
leaders are visionary, sacrificial, December 30, 2007, 2D.
Braveheart, Mel Gibsons
1995 movie about the Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, is a great case study in
leadership.Through inspirational acts and
appeals, persuasive communication, vision setting, personal example, risk taking and
self-sacrifice, Wallace rallies his countrymen to fight and defeat the English in battle.The contrasts of Wallaces character to those
of King Edward I (Longshanks), the noblemen, and Robert the Bruce and his father provide
additional insight into the dynamics of true leadership.
ordered his troops into battle and oversaw the fighting from the safety of a distant
hilltop, Wallace personally led the charge into battle and fought alongside the men who
believed in and followed him.Whereas Robert
the Bruce and his noblemen were tempted by Longshanks offers of land and titles,
Wallace wanted nothing but freedom for his people.And
whereas self-interest, power, and political maneuvering drove the actions of the noblemen,
Wallaces motives were portrayed as pure and selflessfor the benefits of his
people and future generations of Scotsmen.
Toward the end of
movie, Robert the Bruce finally grasped the true meaning of leadership.In anguish, he told his father, Men fight
for me because if they do not, I throw them off my land and I starve their wives and
children. Those men who bled the ground red at Falkirk fought for William Wallace.The film ends with Robert the Bruce taking up the
cause of William Wallace and leading his men into battle against the English.
Leadership is a
common word that is used in all types of organizations.Although it is commonly used, it is less commonly practiced.How many people can say that they have worked with
people who could be called visionary, inspirational, and self-sacrificing?How many leaders have you worked with
that possesses pure and unalterable motives and really look out for the needs and
interests of others?In what circumstances
have you encountered such leaders?
Richard Couto, in
his writings on Citizen Leadership, argued that our society is filled with leaders of
extraordinary quality who work out of the public spotlight in the service of societal
needs and ills.Citizen leaders, as Couto
called them, rally and mobilize others to remedy needs in their communities without
receiving the usual types of honor and reward that are desired by those in paid positions
in for-profit organizations.Citizen leaders
put their causes ahead of themselves and work relentlessly to enlist others to join the
cause and then mobilize their efforts and public sentiment toward remedying the
problemsometimes at great personal cost.
The core ideas of
leadership that are evident in Citizen Leadership are equally important in for-profit
organizations.Todays business world is
in desperate need of leadersthe popular and professional management literature says
so.Like Robert the Bruce, managers and
executives must realize that people rally around leaders and the visions and causes that
they espouse and if they only rely upon position and authority to get workers to perform,
they will not be viewed as leaders.
Motivation is the key, December 23, 2007, 2D.
that which arouses, directs, and sustains behavior.Understanding motivation is critical to managers
and those responsible for bringing about performance from others.Performance arises when people want to
perform a task and when people are able to perform the task.In other words, performance is a function of
motivation and abilityif either is missing, performance will not occur.
explanations for how things work and are derived using the principles of the scientific
method.Theories of motivation give
explanation to why people want to do things and come in two typescontent
theories and process theories.
focus on the things that energize and direct behavior that are internal to individuals.They focus on needs and how needs drive behavior.Maslows Need Hierarchy,
Alderfers ERG Theory, Herzbergs Two-Factor Theory, and McClellands
Learned Needs Theory describe that human behavior is driven by the desire to satisfy
personal needssuch as survival, safety, social, esteem, growth, achievement, and
power needs.Organizational designers and
policy makers can use content theories to create motivating work places through job
design, pay and compensation schemes, social structure policies, and through opportunities
for employee growth and development.Knowledge
of the content theories gives decision makers the power to establish long-run motivating
environments by fulfilling worker needs.
give explanation to short-run and individual performance.These theories focus more on cognitive processes and conscious choices of
workers.Goal setting theory, reinforcement
theory, equity theory, and expectancy theory are some of the more popular process
theories.In these theories, individuals
consciously choose to act and willfully pursue courses of action because the decisions
make sense to them.Rewards that come from
performance, avoidance of unpleasant consequences that come with non-performance, actions
to maintain or restore equity with referent others, and confidence that performance can be
attained and that performance will be rewarded, form the foundations of these models.Process theories can be used to bring about
individual performance in the here and now.Getting
employees to speed up their productivity could be induced with rewards for success or
reprimands for non-compliance.Boosting a
workers belief that he or she can do the task at hand and that desirable rewards
will be returned for successful completion are other ways of applying process theories in
made up of peopleit is people who give them life and people who perform their work.Successfully guiding and directing workers to the
attainment of individual and group goals is a big part of a managers job.To most effectively do that, managers should be
aware of why people do the things that they do.Managers
should invest time learning and implementing the concepts of both content theories, with
their attention on the satisfaction of human needs, and cognitive-focused process
theories.Additional information about
these concepts is readily available on the web or it can be found in common management,
leadership, and organizational behavior textbooksor you can give me a call.
Creative destruction means opportunity, December 16, 2007,
When I was a kid,
my father worked in New York City and we lived in Connecticut. I remember my grandparents
coming to visit us from their home in New Orleans each summer for two weeks.They made their cross-country trip each year by
trainwhich even in the 1970s seemed like an outdated method of transportation.
While still common
in many parts of the world, the popularity of long-distance train travel in our country
has become negligible compared to what is was a century ago.The rise of the automobile and highway systems,
and the birth and development of airline transportation relegated the train-travel
industry to an almost forgotten mode of transportationjust as trains did to horse
and stagecoach travel in earlier times.
The forces that
propelled interest in automobile and airline travel over railroad travel caused many
railroad-related jobs to become irrelevant and unnecessary.Many jobs and industries ceased to exist when the new, superior, and
preferred types of transportation came into being.The
lost railroad-related jobs were replaced in the economy by countless jobs in the
automobile, highway, and airlines industries.New
technologies, jobs, and industries supplanted old technologies, jobs, and industries.
process is not limited to the transportation industries.The medical field is continually announcing new procedures, treatments, and
ways to prevent and remedy diseases and afflictions.Scientists and researchers are constantly discovering new things that
improve the ways we live and workin agriculture, engineering, and through pure and
applied research in chemistry, biology, and physics. Advances in electronics and computer
technology have given us countless new products that radically replaced old products and
equipmentfrom more powerful personal computers to bigger televisions to smaller cell
phones.Each radical product advancement
brings with it new technologies and new jobs.Old
technologies, jobs, and products are lost in the economy.
Economists refer to
the process of new and better products, ideas, and innovations replacing old ones as
innovations bring with them new sets of required skills, knowledge, and abilities of
workers.The jobs related to the old
products become irrelevant and new jobs become in demand.Our capitalistic economy is one that encourages and rewards the invention
and creation of new and better things.Entrepreneurs
and innovative companies constantly look to find and develop the next big
thing for the market and to make themselves and their companies wealthy in the
process.Because new and better
is the norm of the market, the required skills, knowledge, and abilities of workers in the
marketplace are also constantly changing.
and innovations mean new opportunities for innovative companies and workers.Companies and workers who possess knowledge of
outdated technologies and the skills needed to produce unwanted offerings will find
themselves irrelevant in the marketplace.Individuals
and organizations must constantly keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date with the
market to make themselves relevant in the futurethrough continuous training,
development, and education, and strong senses of curiosity and personal discovery.
Inertia can be good or bad for a business, December 9,
One of my favorite
things about taking science classes was when the teacher conducted experiments during
class.It was always intriguing to try to
figure out the purpose of the equipment and a challenge to predict the outcome before the
experiment was conducted.For one experiment,
the teacher appeared in class with a four-foot length of rope and a bicycle wheel.The wheel had an unusually long, rubber-covered
axle that extended out about five inches on each side of the wheel.
For the experiment,
the teacher held onto the two ends of the axle and spun the wheel on the floor and then
held it up for the class to see.The wheel
spun so fast that the spokes on the wheel were nearly invisible.While it was still spinning, the teacher rested
one side of the axle on a table and quickly looped the rope under the axle on that side.He then lifted up the still-spinning wheel by the
rope and his other supporting hand.He
quickly asked the class what would happen to the wheel if he removed his
handallowing the wheel to be supported on only one side by the rope.In the minds of most, they probably pictured the
unbalanced wheel falling to the floor and rolling across the room.When the teacher removed his hand, the wheel
tilted slightly to the side where his hand had been and then found balance on the rope.The spinning wheel remained upright even though it
was being supported on only one side of the axle.
The result of the
experiment was explained using Newtons first law of motion; which states that,
An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in
motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced
force.The spinning wheel remained
moving in the same direction and resisted falling from the rope.The wheels inertia kept it upright on the
rope until friction slowed it down enough to become unbalanced and fall from the rope.
speaking, organizations also have inertia and are subject to the same laws of behavior as
moving objects.The expressions,
lets get the ball rolling and lets keep the ball
rolling refer to starting and sustaining collective work.Inertia within organizations comes from goals,
organizational polices, roles, structure, processes, cycles of events, technology, and
patterns of behavior.As learned from
Newtons first law, inertia is typically harder to establish than to maintain and it
shows us that changing organizations can also be difficult.
by their natures, resistant to change and require unbalancing forces to steer
them in new directions.Those forces might be
crises or emergencies, actions of charismatic and visionary leaders, organizational
cultures, or needs for new strategies and methods of competition.For managers and organizational leaders who
believe that the only thing constant is change, the concepts of organizational
inertia should be something they understand and appreciate.
Groups outperform individuals on mental tasks, December 2, 2007, 2D
An effective and
interactive way to demonstrate the ability of groups to outperform individuals on mental
tasks is the Lost on the Moon exercise.In
the activity, participants are given a list of items that are available to them while they
await rescue on the dark side of the moon.Variations
of this exercise also existlike being trapped in the dessert or wilderness.
The first step in
the exercise is to have participants complete the assessment completely by themselves.Participants must rank the importance of 18
different items for survival on the moonwhich include things like tanks of oxygen, a
compass, matches, milk concentrate, flares, a solar-powered radio transmitter, and a tarp.During this phase, participants are not allowed to
ask questions, talk with others, or look up answers in any way.They should rely only upon the knowledge that they
possess in their heads at the time of the activity.
After everyone has
completed their individual rankings, participants are then divided into groups of four to
six people each and complete the exercise again as teams.It is important that everyone in the group participates and gives input into
the group ranking.A group of five with only
two contributing members is really only a group of two with three bystanders.All members must participate in the group output.
When the groups
complete their rankings, group and individual answers are scored by comparing them against
expert rankings for the items.The
closer the participant answers match the expert rankings, the better the score on the
exercise.A member of each group should
calculate the group score as well as their own individual score.The facilitator of the activity will ask each
group to provide its group score on the exercise as well as the average of the scores of
the individual members.The group and average
individual scores should be written somewhere so that all participants can see them.
When the directions
are followed and participants take the exercise seriously, the group score will almost
always be better than the average individual score.It
shows that individuals, when solving mental tasks, only have their own experiences and
knowledge to draw upon to solve problems.When
individuals work together as teams, their abilities to solve problems are enhanced.This synergistic effect is a result of the
combination of the knowledge and past experiences of the group members.The past experiences of four to six people will
always be greater than the knowledge and past experiences of any single member.
As a group
development tool, exercises like these help show the importance of groups and teamwork to
organizational performance.Managers can use
these exercises to show organizational members the importance of individual differences
and experiences to a team and to demonstrate the importance of all members working
together to solve problems.The
investment of a little time to conduct a Lost on the Moon exercise with groups
of workers could return big benefits for organizations.
Yes, Napolen, you
have to have skills, November 25, 2D.
The 2004 film
Napoleon Dynamite swept the country and created a cult-like following.The movies main character, Napoleon
Dynamite, is a high school super-nerd who, in one scene, becomes distraught when he learns
that his friend Pedro has a date for the high school dance and he does not.In his despair, Napoleon tells Pedro that he has
little hope for finding a girl because he does not have any good skills.When Pedro asks him what he means by that, he
replies: You know, like nunchuku skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking
skills Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.Possessing great skills, in Napoleons mind,
would make him attractive to others.
Skills are also
important for prospective and current employees to possess.Communication, problem-solving, leadership, and teamwork skills can help
make employees attractive to organizations.Technology
and computer skills are becoming more and more important in todays workplacein
fact, word processing, e-mail, and Internet browsing skills are necessities in many
positions and occupations.One
extremely powerful, yet often overlooked and underutilized software program is the
spreadsheet program.Microsoft Excel is
probably the most widely used and available spreadsheet program around today.Although its abilities to integrate with other
Microsoft programs, like PowerPoint and Word, makes Excel useful to know, its true power
comes from its ability to automate intricate and sometimes complex quantitative
relationships among many variables.Spreadsheets
can be used to perform mathematical calculations like ordinary calculators; however, when
spreadsheets are constructed using equations instead of raw data, they can be much more
powerful and useful than a simple calculator.By
relating variables in a spreadsheet to each other through formulas, functions, and
equations, spreadsheet programs can be used to easily run what if and
probabilistic scenarioswhich are very useful for forecasting and decision making.
Using Excel, I can easily determine the grades that
my students need to earn on their final assignments for various final grades in the
course.By creating spreadsheet programs
that link all of the variables together through equations, I am able to analyze how a
change in a grade on any assignment during the semester affects the final grades.I can also easily tell students the exact grades
that they need on a final paper to earn any grade in the course.Once the formulas are written in a spreadsheet,
they can easily be copied to other cells in the spreadsheet.The additional work to calculate what
if grade scenarios for dozens or hundreds of students is not much more than for a
single student.Entering the raw grades for
the students is the most time consuming part of the process.
have become essential in many organizations.To
help your students, colleagues, or coworkers develop these critical skills, the HSU SIFE
team has developed a mobile computer lab that can come to your organization to teach
spreadsheet and other basic computer skills.If
you would like information on how to schedule on-site spreadsheet training, visit our
website at www.hsusife.com.
lead to solutions, November 18, 2007, 2D.
automobiles have performance problems, they typically end up at repair shops for help.
Part of the mechanics job is to listen to the vehicle owners
description of the things wrong with the automobile in order to figure out how to fix the
problem. Likewise, when a sick patient visits a doctor for help, the doctor will ask
the patient to describe the symptoms that he or she is experiencing. Doctors also
typically ask additional questions to the patient to help pinpoint the source of the
problem. Both mechanics and doctors seek to fully diagnose and understand their
patients problems before they develop appropriate solutions. Only when
problems are clearly defined can solutions to remedy the problems be designed.
automobile experiencing brake problems does not need a new radiator and one experiencing
problems with overheating probably does not need new brakes. Likewise, a patient
experiencing fever and congestion does not need a solution remedy for an ingrown toenail.
Solutions must be designed to treat the root problems and ailments.
workers experience performance problems at work, it is often the manager who must diagnose
and develop remedies to those problems. If employee performance is suffering, it is
a symptom of a motivation problem, an ability problem, or a combination of the two.
For employees to successfully accomplish their work, they must want to and be
able to perform.
theory gives explanation for why people want to do things. Receipt of extrinsic and
intrinsic rewards, goal attainment, avoidance of punishment, fulfillment of needs, and
maintenance of perceptions of equity and fairness are some of the ways that employee
motivation has been conceptualized and studied. Ability problems stem from
inadequate or improper experience and training or a lack of organizational resources
(e.g., physical, human, financial, or technological) and other types of organizational
support (e.g., priorities, politics, permissions, etc.). Without motivation and ability, performance will not occur.
must accurately determine whether performance problems arise from issues of motivation or
ability. If the true reason for poor performance is an employees restricted
access to timely and necessary information, it makes no sense to try to remedy performance
with the use of rewards or punishments. Likewise, when employee motivation is the
problem, it would be wasteful to throw additional financial or human resources at the
problem. The solution must fit the true problem.
and doctors diagnose problems and then design solutions to remedy them. They
actively listen to their customers and patients and ask probing questions to accurately
pinpoint the causes of the problems. Mechanics and doctors also know their subjects
extremely well. Through training, education, and apprenticeships, they develop
expertise in how their subjects work and understand exactly how to repair and bring them
back to health.
and organizational leaders should actively communicate and interact with their people to
understand and foresee performance problems. They should also invest considerable
time and effort studying how organizations function and operate. Only then can
performance problems be identified and solved most effectively.
U.S. style of marketing at odds with other
cultures, November 11, 2007, 2D.
(this is a really bad title for this article)
In my graduate
International Human Resource Management class at the International University in Vienna
this past summer, I had 15 students from 12 different countries.The students came from China, India, Spain, and
many countries of the former Soviet Union.They
sought out graduate business education at IU Vienna because of its American style of
education and its international emphasis.
I taught from books
that addressed the course topics from international perspectives.The readings sparked fascinating discussions among
students about how the concepts applied to their particular countries and cultures.I also showed a collection of videos on the
management philosophies of Frito-Lay, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, and IDEO.All four videos provided clear examples of
contemporary American management theory in action.The
videos showed organizations that valued the input and participation of workers, emphasized
employee empowerment and involvement, and encouraged workers to question current ways of
doing things and to offer suggestions for ways to improve operations.The CEO of IDEO said that he intentionally
hires people who do not listen to their bosses.
practices and philosophies portrayed in the instructional videos, as I discovered, were
extremely foreign to most of the students in my class.Many students found it amazing that lower-level workers could offer input to
their higher-level managers.To
question higher-ranking workers or to be involved in the decisions of the firm was
seemingly forbidden in the organizations with which they were familiar with back home.In many of the students national cultures,
there was an emphasis on command, hierarchy, and authority.
Geert Hofstede, in
his research on the influence of national culture on management theory and practice, gives
explanation for the reactions of the students in my class.Hofstede identified four dimensions on which national cultures differ.The first, individualism versus collectivism,
refers to whether people prefer to act as individuals or as members of groups.The second, masculinity versus femininity, refers
to whether assertiveness, performance, success, and competition are preferred over quality
of life, warm personal relationships, service, care for the weak, and solidarity.Uncertainty Avoidance is a dimension that refers
to the degree to which people in a country prefer structured over unstructured situations.Power Distance, the last dimension, is the one
that explains the students bewildered reactions to the management videos.Power Distance refers to the degree of inequality
that people in a culture regard as normal.It
ranges from relatively equal to relatively unequal.American culture is on the relatively equal side of the
Many of the
students in my summer class came from countries with national cultures high on power
distancethat is high inequality.In
those cultures, managers and workers are not viewed as equals.It would be inappropriate for lower-level workers
to question or offer recommendations to higher-level workers.In todays global economy, it is
important to understand and appreciate differences in national cultures and their
influences on organizational performance.Things
commonplace and natural in one culture might be viewed as wrong in other cultures.
Leadership not limited to positions of power, November 4, 2007, 2D.
In American culture, the word
leader is used to mean many things.Many
people equate holding a position of authority with leadership.A promotion into a management position, for
example, is viewed by many as moving into a leadership position.If leader is meant to mean power,
influence, and control, then an appointment to a management position is a leadership
position.However, when the concepts of
authority, power, leadership, and management are broken down and analyzed, differences
between the concepts can be identified.Being
a team leader, for example, is not the same as being a team manager.A more thorough investigation of these topics is
needed to better understand their differences and similarities.
Leadership is a particular type of
authority relationship.Authority comes from
the power that one holds over followers or subordinates.In some cases, authority comes from the position that one holds in an
organization, as described in the constitution or by-laws of the organization, and other
times it is willingly given to the power holder by the followers.The power gained from others arises from being
viewed as special in some way.Admiration,
respect, charisma, expertise, and other personal characteristics can all add to
perceptions of personal power and authority.Power
and authority gained from the position that one holds is termed position power
and that which is earned and gained in the minds of people is called personal
Amitai Etzioni, in his classic works on
authority, compliance, and organizations, made distinctions between what he called
officials, informal leaders, and formal leaders.He
said that those who gain their authority over others solely from the positions that they
occupy are called officials.Athletes comply
with the rulings of referees and umpires in athletic events because of the authority
vested in those positionsathletes and coaches do not comply because of personal
characteristics of the officials.
On most sports teams, there are
frequently players who arise as team leaders. They become team leaders not because of
positions that they occupy, but because they are viewed as special.Team leaders are the ones who inspire, motivate,
and guide their teams with their effort, hustle, and performance.Etzioni called those who influence others solely
through the use of personal power as informal leaders.
Formal leaders, as described by Etzioni,
are those who possess both personal and position power.A well-respected and inspirational head coach would be a formal leader.Such a coach possesses position power and personal
power.Etzioni uses the term
leader to refer to those who possess personal poweras with an informal
team leader or a formal inspirational coach.
Promotion into a management position is
often accompanied by an increase in position power.However,
true leadership is not dependent upon positionit is related to personal power.A promotion into a new management position can
have the effect of turning an informal leader into a formal leader or adding more position
power to someone who was already a formal leader.It
can also create officials.
Formal study of leadership relatively new 'science',
October 28, 2007, 2D.
Leadership has been around as long as
people have lived and worked in groups.The
Old Testament and other ancient texts are full of examples of the accounts and
accomplishments of leaders.The ancient
Egyptians even had hieroglyphic symbols for leadership, leader, and follower 5,000 years
The formal study of leadership, using the
procedures and principles of the scientific method, is relatively newwithin the past
100 years.Beginning first with an analysis
of traits and characteristics of leaders, the field then moved into an analysis of leader
behaviors.Researchers concluded that there
are two types of behaviors that leaders exhibittask-oriented and people-oriented.Leadership researchers from Ohio State University
labeled the two types of behaviors Initiating Structure and
structure refers to direction, goal facilitation, task-related feedback, well-defined
patterns of organization, and procedure.Consideration,
on the other hand, refers to behaviors stressing friendship, mutual trust, respect,
interpersonal warmth, concern for the feelings of followers, and participative
communication.Some researchers of this era
concluded that leaders who exhibited high-task and high-people behaviors were most
effective in the workplace.Those beliefs led
to the idea of Universal Leadershipwhere the universally
best style of leadership was the combination of high-task and high-people behaviors.
The proposition that there was a
best style of leadership caused some researchers to reexamine and refine their
models and thinking.With that reexamination,
the contingency era of leadership thought was born.It
was realized that characteristics of the situation help determine the most appropriate and
effective combination of task and people behaviors.Paul
Hersey and Ken Blanchard hypothesized that follower maturity (or follower
readiness) was the situational characteristic that determined the optimal combination of
task and people behaviors.Hersey and
Blanchard describe follower maturity as a combination of willingness and ability of
followers to perform a task.As followers
increase in willingness and ability, their maturity levels increase and the combinations
of task and people behaviors required to most effectively guide them change.As follower maturity increases, the required
levels of task behaviors decrease.People
behaviors increase through the middle levels of maturity before dropping at higher levels
According to Hersey and Blanchards
Situational Leadership Theory, followers who are unwilling and unable to perform a task
are of lowest follower maturity and require a telling (high task, low people)
style of leadership.As followers increase in
maturity, leaders should advance to selling (high task, high people),
participating (low task, high people), and delegating (low task,
low people) styles of leadershipeach one appropriate for a progressively higher
level of follower maturity.
Hersey and Blanchards model makes
it clear that leaders need to adjust their behaviors and styles of leadership toward
followers in relation to their degrees of task-related maturity.Effective leaders can identify the appropriate
degrees of task and people behaviors required in all types of work situations.Effective leaders recognize that people, tasks,
and situations change and that leadership styles must also change to bring about optimal
compliance and performance from their people.
Don't miss out on
global markets, October 21, 2007, 2D.
In his book, The World is
Flat, Thomas Friedman describes three eras of global trade.The first stage occurred between the time of
Columbus until around 1800Friedman named that era Globalization 1.0.The moving force behind the trade was countries
and governments.Global commerce and trade
was conducted by and between countries.
Globalization 2.0, as described by
Friedman, lasted from 1800 until 2000.The
driving forces in this era of trade were multinational companies.Falling transportation costs, brought about by
the steam engine and railroad, and later falling communication costs helped drive the
expansion of companies and the distribution of their products into new and international
Around the turn of this century, we
entered a third era of global trade and commerce.In
this new era, Globalization 3.0, the driving force is not countries or multinational
organizations; it is individuals.Todays
information and communication technology allows individuals to collaborate and engage in
global commerce and trade like never before.
Amazon.com and eBay.com are two of the
most popular retail destinations on the web.Both
allow individuals and small businesses to sell products to the millions of web surfers who
visit and shop their sites.Most small
businesses have traditionally been limited to sales in their local markets.By offering their products for sale through the
web, small businesses can reach and exchange goods and services with customers in distant
marketsacross the country or around the world.
Personally, I have sold books and college
apparel to dozens of customers across the country through eBay and its affiliated
companies.I have also bought hundreds of
items through eBay and Amazon over the years including: wooden racquetball racquets,
college apparel, shoes, books, DVDs, CDs, electronics, sporting goods, appliance parts,
toys, and childrens clothing.Almost
all of the eBay exchanges and many of the Amazon purchases were conducted with individuals
and small business owners.Very few of the
transactions occurred with people located in Texasmost occurred with buyers and
sellers from across the United States.
One of my favorite purchases, and one
that clearly demonstrates Friedmans Globalization 3.0, was my acquisition of a new
nickel-plated, pocket trumpet.The instrument
sounds like a full-size trumpet, but is much smaller.Through eBay, I bought the trumpet for $92.00 (including shipping and a
money order fee) from a seller in New Delhi, India.The
trumpet was delivered to my house about three weeks after the transaction was completed.By linking up with a seller in India through eBay,
I unknowingly engaged in a Globalization 3.0 business transaction.By quickly setting up an eBay account and listing
his products, the seller in India was able to offer his goods to millions of potential new
customers in the United States.
The transactions just described did not
occur as the result of trade agreements between countries or through the reach of
large-scale multinational companies.Rather,
they occurred between individuals and small businesses that found each other through
worldwide e-commerce websites.Is your
organization missing out on todays global market?
remains a key skill to develop, October 14, 2007, 2D.
Explore the books in the business section
of any popular bookstore and you will find a seemingly endless array of books devoted to
leadership and management development.Some
of those are self-help books, others try to sell a particular course or method of
leadership development, and others are more theoretical in nature.
In addition, there are a variety of
leadership development courses offered through colleges and universities, community
education programs, and business development and consulting firms.The reason that there is so much attention paid to
leadership development is that effective leadership is critical to all types of
organizations and because it is so complicated.From
an academic perspective, leadership development requires training in psychology,
sociology, management, economics, political science, history, critical thinking,
communication, ethics, and other fields that provide insight into the understanding of
human behavior in individual and group work environments.The study of leadership from the perspectives of those disciplines takes
considerable time and effort.
As beings living in the times of the most
remarkable discoveries and inventions that mankind have ever known, we like to think of
ourselves as cutting edge in all realms of science and discoverythis
includes leadership studies and development.However,
the ideas that people need to study philosophy, history, and human nature before assuming
positions of responsibility in society is nothing new.
Plato (428-347 B.C.) wrote in The
Republic that the solution required to break the reciprocal nature of tyranny and
democracy in an ideal society is leadership education and development. Until philosophers are kings, or the
kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political
greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the
exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from
their evils.Plato continued that line
of reasoning by stating, There will be discovered to be some natures who ought
to study philosophy and to be leaders in the State; and others who are not born to be
philosophers, and are meant to be followers rather than leaders.He goes on to explain that the philosophers of
which he spoke are those who love knowledge, are averse to corruption and ambition, and
seek truth, justice, courage, and temperance.Only
after years of training and education, are Platos philosophers prepared to govern
Regardless of whether people intend to
lead organizations or local, state, and national governments, they should seek training
and education to accelerate their leadership abilities.Rather than learning simply through personal experience and trial and error,
would-be leaders can learn leadership philosophies and skills more rapidly and efficiently
through education and training.Training
programs should expose participants to the rules, principles, and philosophies of
leadership, teamwork, and organization as well as provide opportunities for skill
development in communication, critical thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution,
creativity, and persuasion and influence.Leadership
development is just as important today as it was 2,400 years ago in the time of Plato.
Other countries primed to grab U.S. jobs,
September 9, 2007, 2D.
The book, The World is Flat
by Thomas Friedman, chronicles the rapid expansion of global business in recent decades.The increasing development and use of information
technology has fueled that growth.In many
ways, it is now just as easy for organizations to communicate and collaborate with
partners on the other side of the world as it is someone next door.Additionally, todays information and
computer technology has empowered individuals to start and run businesses with widespread
reach and few start-up costs.
Among the causes of the explosive growth
in global collaboration described by Friedman is the migration of knowledge-based jobs to
Russia and other former Soviet states, China, and India.The combination of low wages, massive numbers of highly educated and skilled
workers, and information technology has allowed many types of work, that until recently
could only efficiently be done locally, to be sent overseas to foreign workers. Friedman says that although the workforces in
India, China, and the former Soviet states still lag behind the United States in many
ways, they are gaining on us quickly and intending to pass us.His book is a warning to Americans that we must
change our education system and national priorities to emphasize science and mathematics
or else we will soon find ourselves lagging behind other countries in innovation and
creation of new technology and world-changing research and development.
Friedman describes that the people who
want our jobs are primarily from China, India, and the former Soviet states.The immense populations and numbers of highly
educated and skilled workers in those countries dwarf the highly trained human resources
of the United States.When you realize how
hungry the people in those countries are to improve their living conditions through jobs
in high technology and knowledge-based work and how much their governments and cultures
emphasize and encourage people to pursue science and mathematics education, one cannot
help but think that someday Americans will be looking at those countries through our front
windshields rather than out our rearview mirrors.
This past summer, I spent my sabbatical
from HSU teaching business courses at The International University in Vienna, Austria.I had students from many parts of Europe, Asia,
and Africa in my classes.The mix of people,
cultures, and languages made for fascinating teaching experiences.My students were eager to learn business,
economics, and e-commerce and to improve their English language skills (for many it was a
third or fourth language) for use in future positions in their own companies, in
organizations in their home countries, and in multi-national firms.The majority of my students were from the former
Soviet states, China, and Indiathe people who Thomas Friedman writes about in his
book.It was extremely fascinating to learn
about and discuss Friedmans ideas with students (undergraduate and graduate) from
those particular parts of the world.
Over the next several months, I will use
this column to share some of the insights gained from my sabbatical experiences teaching
at The International University in Vienna.Auf
From the mouth of a pig, good management
advice, May 13, 2007, 2D.
The 1995 movie Babe
introduced the world to Farmer Hoggetts talking sheep and barnyard animals.Babe the pig was the star of the movie along
with his co-star Fly the border collie, who became Babes adoptive mother.Fly comforted Babe and counseled him on how to
fit in on the farm.She even tried to teach
Babe how to herd sheep.
In one scene, Farmer Hoggett sends Babe
into a corral with instructions to round up some sheep and lead them out.Being Babes first time to undertake such a
task, he is uncertain how to get the job done.He
first tries running into the sheep pen making dog noises, but the sheep ignore him.Babe and Fly then have the following conversation:
Babe: This is
it's only your first try. But you're treating them like equals. They're sheep, they're
Babe: Oh, no
Fly: Of course they are. We are
their masters, Babe. Let them doubt it for a second and they'll walk all over you.
Babe: They'll laugh at me.
Fly: Then bite
them! Be ruthless, whatever it takes. Bend them to your will!
After biting one of the sheep on the leg,
Babe is reprimanded by the sheep and begins to cry.The
sheep tell him that he does not need to be mean and bossing, rather, he should just ask
them kindly.Babe did, and the sheep
willingly complied.After completing the
task, Fly asked Babe:
Fly: All right,
how did you do it?
Babe: I asked
them and they did it. I just asked them nicely.
Fly: We don't
ask sheep, dear; we tell them what to do.
Babe: But I did,
Mom. They were really friendly.
Babes experiences with the sheep
demonstrate Douglas McGregors concepts of Theory X and Theory Y management.McGregors theories describe two different
attitudes that mangers have about workers. A
Theory X attitude is one that workers inherently dislike work and will try to avoid it if
they can.Theory X managers view workers as
lazy, irresponsible, untrustworthy, and in need of firm and constant supervision.
A Theory Y attitude is that workers
desire to excel and are inherently good and eager to work.Theory Y managers try to create positive work environments for their workers
and provide them with growth and development opportunities.Theory Y managers respect, trust, and look out for the best interests of the
workerswhich is typically returned by the workers.Babes Theory Y attitude toward the sheep led to the films
The attitudes that managers have about
their workers come out in the ways they work and interact with them.Theory X managers tend to rely on coercion and
intimidation to get workers to perform.Theory
Y managers use persuasion, inspirational appeals, and personal power.Optimal work outcomes tend to arise under
conditions of mutual trust, respect, and cooperationa consequence of Theory Y
attitudes.Maybe we can all learn something
from a talking pig.
Integrated Marketing Plans, May 6, 2007,
At one time or another, everyone has
probably had to scrounge through his or her refrigerator and pantry for food.When food at home is scarce, meals usually end up
being a disjointed assortment of random foods.Frozen
waffles, soup, cereal, apples, and macaroni and cheese might be combined to make a meal.What makes those types of meals strange is not the
individual components, rather, it is their combination.The combination of foods comes from the items that are available when needed
and not as the result of conscious and purposeful planning.
A well-balanced and nutritious meal is
one that includes items from a variety of food groups.Meats, grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables should all be represented in a
healthy meal.The servings of foods from the
different groups should be properly proportioned so that one category does not dominate or
overwhelm the diet.Likewise, the amounts of
food served to people should be appropriate to their sizes, appetites, diets, and ages.A small child requires and should receive less
food than a grown adult.
Supplying the body with healthy food
requires effort, planning, and discipline.Healthy
eating is an on-going process rather than a one-time activity.As we age, the types of foods that the body
requires changes.The foods that were
required when we were young are not necessarily the best foods for us when we get old.People must know their bodies and continuously
work to ensure that they are supplying themselves with the best food possible.
The concepts of preparing and consuming
healthy meals are very similar to developing and executing well-balanced marketing plans
for organizations.Marketing involves
the business functions related to creating profitable exchanges with others.Developing products and services, setting prices,
determining distribution channels and outlets, and promoting and selling the offerings to
customers are the heart of marketing.Healthy
firms devote considerable time and energy into ensuring that all of their marketing
efforts are active, balanced, and contribute to the success of the firm.
When many people think about marketing,
they primarily think of the promotion and personal selling aspects of marketing.Letting potential customers know that your company
exists and telling them what you have to offer (and at what prices and locations) is
important to creating profitable exchanges with others.Promotional and sales efforts include such things as print and broadcast
media, personal selling and network marketing, advertising and publicity, and web and
interactive media.A balance of these
marketing elements is also needed to build a healthy marketing campaign.
Coordinating and executing planned
marketing efforts across an entire firm is known as Integrated Marketing Communication
(IMC).Like a well-balanced meal, the IMC
elements need to be combined to maximize its effectiveness.Relying on only one element might not be the
healthiest alternative for a firm.The
resources invested in various marketing elements should be made in relation to the age,
size, and goals of the firm.The IMC process
must be planned and it should be evaluated and corrected continuously.
Pay attention to debt financing, December
29, 2006, 2D.
This years Christmas (and
post-Christmas) shopping season is quickly coming to an end.Many shoppers used credit cards to pay for their
Christmas purchases.There are many reasons
why consumers use credit cards rather than cash, checks, or debit cards.Some used them for the convenience that comes from
being able to make one payment to the credit card company rather than many individual
payments to merchants.Others wished to take
advantage of rebates and bonuses that they earn by using their credit cards.Some wished to defer the actual payments of the
purchases until the credit card bill comes due, and others used their cards because they
did not have cash on hand and felt that borrowing the money through their cards was their
The ability to purchase on credit makes
it easier for consumers to buy the goods and services they desire.The well-publicized downside to making purchases
on credit cards is that they build debt.Carrying
too much debt prevents consumers from being able to save and invest money for use in the
future or to take advantage of productive opportunities that come along.
In some cases, acquiring debt to fund
purchases is a desirable thing to do.When
buying a rental property, for example, it is often cost-prohibitive for buyers to fund the
entire purchase with cash.Rather, buyers pay
a small portion of the sales price in cash and borrow the remaining funds from a lender.The rent charged to tenants should cover the costs
of the loan payment plus other expenses.
When goods and services are bought with
debt financing, different sets of concepts arise.Most
things bought with credit cards do not provide a profitable payoff like a rental property.Consumers must understand when to carry debt and
when to pay it off.Financial theory
suggests that excess money should be used to fund the activities with the highest
returnsor pay off debts with the largest costs.
If given the choice between an investment
that returns 5 percent and one with equal risk that returns 15 percent, the alternative
that returns 15 percent should be chosen.The
same principle holds true when evaluating whether to use money for investing or paying off
debt.Many credit card companies charge
customers 18 percent (annually) or more on outstanding balances.Paying off a debt with 18 percent interest should
be thought of as an investment that yields an 18 percent return with no risk.When excess cash can be invested to earn more than
the rate paid on debt, the investment should be chosen over debt reduction.In reality, however, very few investments provide
greater rates of return (with no risk) than credit card rates.Carrying a balance on a high-interest credit card
makes little financial sense when the money to pay off the balance is sitting in
low-return investment accounts.
With the advent of this years
bill-paying season, spend some time evaluating ways to make your money work best for you.
Solve problem, go on to other
task, September 29, 2006, 2E.
If you have ever been in the middle of a
home-repair job and gotten stuck because you needed help holding something, measuring or
eyeballing a position, or assistance locating, retrieving, or operating a specific tool,
you can probably remember feeling frustrated about not having help and feeling perplexed
about how to accomplish the task alone.Lacking
tools, assistance, or the understanding required to accomplish a task seems to focus a
persons thoughts and energies into overcoming the obstacles hindering task
accomplishment.Once the needed help is
received and the hold up is overcome, the issue that caused the obstacle no longer directs
ones thinking and is quickly forgottenthe persons thoughts and behaviors
move on to the next task.
The processes at play on individuals
completing personal tasks are also very relevant to organizations.Organizations exist to complete work that is
inefficient, prohibitive, or impossible for individuals to complete alone.They require that individuals work together in
pursuit of a common goal.Understanding
organizations means understanding people and how and why they work.
Motivation theory helps explain why
people do the things that they do.Motivation
is that which provides arousal, direction, and persistence to behavior.Needs theorists argue that motivation
comes about from a desire to fulfill unmet needs.When
something is needed, it means that it is required, but not present or available.The absence of the thing that is required creates
tension in people and drives their behavior to fulfill the need.Once a need is met, it no longer creates tension
on individuals or motivates them to satisfy the need.Feelings of hunger or thirst, for example, will drive people to satisfy
those needs by drinking or eating.Once the
feelings of thirst and hunger disappear, they will no longer consume peoples
thoughts or direct their behaviors.
Abraham Maslows Hierarchy of
Needs is a well-known needs theory.Maslow
described five needs that guide and direct human behavior and which operate in a
hierarchical fashionthat is, higher-level needs kick in after lower-level needs are
met.From lowest to highest, Maslow named
those needs: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.As described, these needs range from: issues of
basic survival and safety; to feelings of inclusion, love, status, and self-respect; to
heightened levels of awareness, growth, potential, and striving.As Maslow suggested, high-order needs only become
motivators after lower-level needs are raised and satisfied.
For organizations that want workers to
think big and desire big things, Maslows ideas suggest that organizations must first
fulfill their workers lower-level needs.Some
specific ways that organizations might do that are to provide: sufficient pay to cover
survival needs, safe working conditions, insurance and retirement benefits, opportunities
to form meaningful relationships with others, status symbols, and environments that make
workers feel good about themselves.Maslows
theory suggests that only after lower-level needs are satisfied can self-actualization
needs kick in and operate on workers.To
achieve that, organizational leaders must create organizational systems that meet
lower-level needs and encourage needs for self-actualization.
Some businesses require
more start-up time and effort than others, July 28, 2006, 7D.
Most people typically look at a variety
of homes before choosing one to buy.With
each home visited in the search process, potential buyers evaluate the condition of the
house and assess how much work will be required to make it ready to live in.Some houses might require maintenance,
redecorating, or remodeling while others might be in ready to move into
condition and require minimal work for the homebuyer.The amount of work required to make a new house livable for the
buyer is dependent upon the needs, wants, and interests of the buyer and the
characteristics of the home.Some houses are
easy to move into and others require some work.
The same notions hold true for starting a
businesssome are neat, clean, and easy to start while others require considerable
work and preparation to make them ready.Businesses
exist to exchange goods and services for resources with those outside the organization.Anything that is wanted or needed by people in a
society can be the source of a business venture.There
are several options available to people wanting to start and run their own
businesseach with different degrees of work required to get it up and running.
One option is to start your own business
from scratch.The advantages to this method
include being able to build and shape the venture from the ground floor up with total
freedom and control.Building from nothing is
also the biggest challenge for business people choosing this method.Without a stream of customers or proven method or
model of success, entrepreneurs starting from scratch face tremendous uncertainty and
risk.The amount of work required to build a
business from scratch can be considerable.
Another option is to buy an existing
business or buy into a business system.Purchasing
an existing business could be an advantage because it might have a record of successful
operation and a favorable reputation with customers, suppliers, and people in the
community.It is also possible to inherit a
poor business reputation from previous owners.
Franchising and business opportunities
are two other methods of buying into proven business systems.Some of these options come with complete
turn-key solutionswhere new business owners need little more than to
open their doors for business.Having proven
sales and marketing systems and providing new business owners with all of the things
needed to start and maintain the business make these options very attractive to many
Before choosing to start a business,
prospective entrepreneurs should thoroughly investigate their options and research the
costs and investments associated with various alternatives.Many sources of information exist for people who
need help assessing business ideas and opportunities.Aspiring entrepreneurs can find books, websites, and college courses
dedicated to entrepreneurship and small business.The
government also provides a wealth of information to citizens through the U.S. Small
Business Administration (www.sba.gov), local Small
Business Development Centers (including one in Abilene), and related agencies and
programs.For more information about
resources and issues to consider before starting a business, visit the HSU SIFE website at
Business success requires a game
plan, June 16, 2006, 9C.
Watch any pre-game commentary during
football season and you will see and hear sports broadcasters discuss the keys to victory
for each team.The comparable strengths and
weaknesses of each team are analyzed and the game plans for victory are described.As the games play out, each team is typically
evaluated on how well it executed its game plan and how well it reacted and adapted to the
play of its opponents.
The development of a game plan comes from
a process of analysis, goal setting, introspection, comparison, evaluation, and
forecasting.Before each game, coaches take
stock of their teams talent and make note of injuries and player health.They also learn about the health and abilities of
the upcoming opponent.Coaches look over game
film, of their team and the opponents, to discover strengths that might be used and
weaknesses that might be exploited.Once a
proper assessment has been made about their teams abilities and how those abilities
match up against the abilities of the opponent, then a coaching staff can develop a
feasible game plan for victory.
The processes for developing winning game
plans for sports teams are similar to developing winning strategies for success in the
business world.Strategies are linked to
goals.Goals for sports teams are usually
pretty clearto win the game or competition.Goals
in business organizations can sometimes be less defined, conflicting, contradictory, or
confused.When identifiable goals do exist,
it is necessary to develop a strategy to attain those goals.Strategy describes the methods, actions, and
procedures needed reach the goals.
Once goals have been defined and agreed
upon, managers should engage in deep introspection.The
strengths and weaknesses of the organization should be studied.Strengths are those characteristics or abilities
that the organization possesses that can give it a competitive advantage in the
marketplace and might include experience, production efficiency, exclusive information,
market share, customer service, or distribution methods.The absence of these same characteristics might be weaknesses for a company.Weaknesses are those things that could be
exploited by competitors or that might hinder goal attainment.
In addition to introspection, managers
must also look outside the organization to identify possible opportunities and threats.Opportunities are things that exist in the
organizations environment that could benefit the company.Threats are those things that might harm the
company.Changing consumer demand,
demographics, legislation, environmental factors, technology, competition, and economic
factors might all be viewed as opportunities or threats depending on their effect on the
company.Opportunities and threats could
exist as short-term or long-term and could have immediate or future influences on the
organization.Managers must be able to see
current opportunities and threats and be able to forecast and predict future influences.
Only after strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities, and threats are identified and analyzed, should organizational leaders
begin developing strategies for success in the marketplace.Just as coaches spend a great amount of time and effort developing game
plans for success, so too should organizational managers and leaders.
Learning statistics like learning a
language, May 26, 2006, 2D.
When many people think about statistics,
they often cringe.Reasons for this are
probably widely varied.Some people may have
phobias that have followed them into their adult lives from their mathematics and
quantitative courses in high school or college.Some
may be intimidated by the complex sounding lingo of the field.Others may avoid ever approaching the topic due to
beliefs that the concepts are too difficult to learn, that conclusions can be manipulated
to meet the will of the investigator, or that the techniques are not really useful.In the view of many, statistic and
sadistic are two words that can be used interchangeably.
In reality, none of those are valid
reasons to avoid or shun statistics.While
statistics involves the use and manipulation of numbers, the emphasis for practitioners is
not on mathematics, but on interpretation and analysis of validity.Computers can now perform complex mathematical
computations quickly and accurately.It is
now most important for users of statistics to understand how to apply statistical tools
and techniques and to interpret results.Mastering
these concepts can help managers in their jobs.
Managers are problem solvers.When confronted with exceptions to established
work processes, managers step in to resolve the exceptions with their organizations
best interests in mind.If there were no
organizational problems, the managers job would be that of an engineer.The manager would simply designate a level of
performance, adjust the appropriate controls on the machine, turn on the
machine for a determined time, and then turn off the machine at the end of the day.Periodically, the manager would have to perform
maintenance or repair and occasionally upgrade the equipment with a better model.There are very few organizations that operate like
machines.Most managers deal with work
process problems, individual problems, group problems, organizational problems, and
problems that arise from sources outside the organization.A managers job is very complexa variety of skills, competencies,
and problem solving tools are needed to be successful.
Statistics is a decision-making tool.It is a way to draw information from
datawhich is then used by managers and decision-makers to solve organizational
problems.There are two basic types of
statistics, descriptive and inferential.Descriptive
statistics describe the data (the number of data points, the middle of the
data range, the dispersion of numbers, etc.).Inferential
statistics is more complex than descriptive statistics because it involves
inferring measures drawn from a sample to a population.A host of errors and threats to validity can creep
into inferential statistics.Conclusions are
drawn using the notions of sampling theory and probability.
With a little time and effort, almost
anyone can learn the fundamental tools and techniques of statistics.In many ways, learning statistics is like
learning a languagea language that uses numbers, logic, and scientific analysis.The conclusions drawn from properly conducted
statistical analyses provide sources of information for managers that cannot be gained
solely from experience, intuition, or professional judgment.
Why social conformity can be bad in
the workplace, April 14, 2006, 2D.
Did you realize that our beloved Abilene
has its own paradox?In fact, among
organizational researchers and social psychologists, the Abilene Paradox is
quite well known and provides a great example of how groups work and warns of the danger
of unquestioningly following the norm.
Jerry B. Harvey in his book, The
Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management, tells a story of a family from
Coleman, Texas who, when prompted by a family member to drive to Abilene for dinner, pack
themselves into an unairconditioned 1958 Buick and travel to Abilene.Four hours later, after a hot and dusty, 106-mile
round trip excursion to Abilene for a less-than-satisfying meal, the family returned to
their home in Coleman.Later discussion
revealed that no one in the family actually wanted to go to Abilene, but they all went
because they thought that everyone else wanted to go.To avoid possible disagreement and turmoil, they all willingly did what they
thought the group wanted to do, when in reality, no one in the group actually wanted to do
The concepts at play among the family
members in the Abilene Paradox demonstrate the powers of social conformity.Organizational researchers use the term
groupthink to describe such processes.Groupthink
refers to the tendency for individual group members to suppress and not give voice to
their individual thoughts and ideas in the presence of an idea that seems popular with the
group.It arises when group members conform
to the will of the group to avoid disagreeing with the group and creating conflict and
appearing as bad team players.But as the
paradox shows, sometimes the will of the group is not the will of any individual member.
Devils advocates resist the
tendencies of groupthink and social conformity.A
devils advocate is a group member who rationally questions solutions and
recommendationsoften forcing group members to analyze, explain, and defend their
recommendations.Through that evaluation
process, modifications to proposed courses of action might be developed or selected
solutions confirmed.Research findings
show that groups with devils advocates tend to outperform groups that do not have
such members.Ironically, the same research
also shows that group members, when given the opportunity to evict someone from the group,
consistently choose to kick out the devils advocatethe one who leads them to
better performance.People prefer conformity,
ease, and conflict avoidance to questioning, disagreement, and better-reasoned solutions.
Managers and organizational leaders must
understand and recognize the tendencies of individuals to conform to group pressures.In some cases, social conformity is desired and
can be used to wrangle in wayward individuals, create a sense of belonging, and build
group identity.In other situations, however,
the processes of social conformity and groupthink can lead groups to derive
less-than-optimal solutions to organizational problems.Work cultures must be created that value teamwork AND individual input and
the questioning of solutions, procedures, and methods of operation.By doing so, organizations can reap the
benefits of groups and maximize the power of their individuals.
Social facilitation: Handling
pressure during performance, March 31, 2006, 7D.
It is not uncommon to see individual
athletes perform in extraordinary ways when team, media, and fan attention shines on them.Neither is it rare to see athletes crumble and
melt under pressure when competition begins.When
the lights come on and the crowds begin to cheer, some athletes seem to rise to the
occasion and perform beyond their limits while others seem to lose confidence,
concentration, and the ability to perform.Why
and how do those differences occur?
Psychologists and organizational
researchers refer to this phenomenon as social
facilitation.It posits that
individuals perform differently in the presence of others than they do when they are
alone.Knowing that others are observing them
brings about a state of physiological arousal that causes people to act differently than
when they are unobserved.That
charged physiological state tends to energize people when performing physical
tasks.Whether an individual uses that energy
to enhance or harm performance is influenced by the nature of the task and whether the
person is comfortable and confident performing the task.
When people perform physical tasks with
which they are very comfortable and confident, the energized state tends to enhance
performance.In other words, when tasks are
perceived as easy, the presence of others positively affects performance.Highly trained athletes probably set more
performance records during important competitions than in the presence of only their
coaches during practice.In an opposite
manner, difficult tasks, new tasks, and tasks that people are uncomfortable and
unconfident with, tend to negatively affect performance when conducted in the presence of
Social facilitation also has a mental
component.Performing in front of others
brings with it an expectation that others will evaluate the observed performance.Questions such as: What will others think
about my abilities? and Will others view me as an asset or liability?
run through the minds of individuals when performing in the presence of others.Perceived positive evaluations enhance
performance.Perceived negative evaluations
will unnerve and distract the performer and subsequently harm performance.
The same processes at play on athletes in
competition occur in people in everyday organizations.To make people feel good about themselves and to perform their best, they
should be put into situations where they can perform tasks, at which they are skilled and
regard as easy, in the presence of others.To
avoid the negative consequences of social facilitation, managers should make sure that
workers have chances to learn and become comfortable with new and difficult tasks by
themselves before working in front of others.
Groups can outperform individuals on
physical tasks because of the greater effort that can be generated by more people.Through the processes of social facilitation,
groups can also enhance the performance of individual members and synergistically produce
an output greater than the sum of performances of individual members in isolation.Managers and organizational leaders should use
these concepts to maximize individual, group, and organizational performance.
There is more to setting up a shop than a good product, March 10,
You have just come up with THE
perfect business ideaa product or service that you think countless people will want
and demand.It is time to get a business
banking account and lease a building, right?Not
Businesses exist to conduct exchanges
with others.Individuals and organizations
outside of the firm exchange their resources for the products and/or services of the
business.Without those exchanges, businesses
will be unable to cover costs and meet expenses and will eventually go out of business.
The product or service that a firm offers
is critically important in creating exchanges, but equally important are the prices that
the firm charges, the ways that consumers are made aware of and encouraged to trade with
the firm, and where and how to get the product or service to the consumer.In marketing, those ideas are known as the
marketing mixproduct, price, promotion, and place.
A good product or service satisfies needs
or wants.Necessity goods and services meet
basic human needs (e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical service, etc.).Luxury goods and services go beyond basic needs.An expensive dinner at a fine restaurant satisfies
basic hunger needs, but might also satisfy self-esteem and ego needs.Because there is usually a premium paid for
luxuries, their demand is typically affected more by price changes than necessities.
There is no magic formula used to
determine prices.Lower prices create more
demand than higher prices, but the profits gained from each sale are also lower.A higher price might bring in greater profit on
items sold, but fewer consumers will be willing and/or able to pay higher prices.The trick is to find a price that is low enough to
generate demand, but high enough to cover costs and provide enough profit to make the
If no one knows that your firm exists or
what you offer, you may as well not exist.Advertising
and promotional activities are needed to create exchanges with consumers.It is important that consumers recognize your firm
as the place to fill needs and wants.Incentives
and promotions should be used to introduce, remind, encourage, and compel consumers to
trade with your firm.
Exchanges with consumers need to occur in
places and at times that are convenient for them.Care
should be taken when choosing locations for sales, service, and supply outlets and setting
times of operation.Visibility, convenience
of location, and proximity to target markets should all be considered when choosing a
location. For firms that distribute their
offerings across a wide geographical area, locations with access to proper distribution
systems should be selected.
To succeed in your venture you must offer
a desirable product or service, make consumers aware of your offerings, supply consumers
at the times and places they require, and charge prices that are deemed attractive, yet
profitable.So before running out a setting
up a business, spend the time and resources needed to thoroughly evaluate all aspects of
the marketing mix.
A lesson in diminishing marginal productivity, February 3, 2006, 2D.
If you are a fan of Bugs Bunny, you might
remember the Baseball Bugs cartoon where Bugs Bunny heckled the Gashouse
Gorillas from his rabbit hole in the outfield of a baseball stadium.After bragging that he could beat the Gorillas
all by himself, he was yanked from his hole and made to live up to his words.Bugs played every positionhe pitched,
caught, and fielded balls by himself.He
eventually beat the team of behemoths on a glove-tossing catch from the flagpole of the
Empire State Building.
The notion of the episode was absurd (and
not because it involved a rabbit playing baseball) because it would be impossible for an
individual to defeat a team in a team sport.A
team with fewer than nine players is disadvantaged because positions are left
vacantand that weakness can be exploited.Would
a team with nine players be at a disadvantage to a team with more than nine players?Probably so.
Ten, eleven, or twelve players would
probably provide considerable extra field coverage for a team.However, fielding 100, 500, or 1,000 defensive
players would probably complicate things so much that the extra costs required to recruit,
train, compensate, and manage the players would not be worth the benefits that they would
add to the team.
It is natural to imagine that a bigger
group of people can accomplish more than a smaller group.If you have ever moved a piano, you probably appreciated having others aid
in the effort.The more people who add their
strength to such a task decreases the average load that each individual has to carry.However, after a certain point, adding more people
to the task actually becomes a hindrance to the performance of the group.People begin to get in the way of each other and
to make the collective work of the group more difficult to coordinate.
Each additional person added to a task
will reduce the burden of the workers in the group, but the benefit gained from each new
worker will be less than from the previous worker.For
example, a third piano lifter will reduce the burden of each lifter from 50% to 33% of the
weight of the piano (a 17% reduction).Adding
a fourth lifter will reduce the burden from 33% down to 25% (a 8% reduction).Economists refer to this concept as
diminishing marginal productivity.
After a certain point, the added benefit
of another person will not be worth the cost of adding another person.Nine eager piano lifters may choose go on and
move the piano themselves rather than wasting time waiting on a tenth, extremely late
helper.The point to stop bringing on new
workers is when the cost of a new worker exceeds the added benefit of the worker.
Just as with baseball and piano moving,
some work in organizations requires collective action.It is important for managers to identify the optimal sizes of their work
groups.Too big, and the organization will
waste human and organizational resources, too small, and the organization will lose out on
performanceunless they have a secret rabbit they can call in from the outfield.